I spend quite a bit of time thinking about romantic relationships because it is of great clinical interest to me. However, as we enter another stay at home order, my thoughts are drifting in a slightly different direction. Instead of focusing on the clinical research aspects of romantic relationships, I am now thinking about the relationship issues that my clients and friends might be experiencing. Some of my concerns stem from the apprehensions clients bring up during therapy sessions. Other concerns come from discussions with peers and colleagues. There appears to be a common theme in what people worry about. Those concerns include the decrease in quality time couples are spending together, decreased intimacy, or experiences of feeling overwhelmed and smothered. All of these issues can have damaging effects on a romantic relationship.
Romantic relationships are challenging when we are not living in a pandemic. Living with social distancing and quarantining is bound to create new tensions and put a strain on our relationships with our romantic partners. Since the pandemic began, one in five partnerships find themselves arguing more often, and 30% of partners find they experience increasing feelings of annoyance with their partner. Living in a pandemic lockdown has found 34% of partnerships experiencing a decrease in intimacy. Couples are spending less time holding hands, kissing, cuddling, and having sex. These types of intimacy can be incredibly important to a romantic relationship, and the lack of intimacy can lead to depression, anxiety, tension, and the breakdown of relationships.
Along with decreased intimacy, partners have reported increased relationship conflict, leading to an increased divorce rate. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, divorce rates have increased by 34%. This includes both individuals who have been in a romantic relationship for decades and newlyweds. In fact, the rate of divorce among newlyweds has increased to 20%, a 9% increase from 2019.